General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

Sign-up to E-News

Six more Catholic schools to defy Ruane


03/10/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

As many as six more Catholic grammar schools are poised to defy the education minister and announce they want to retain academic selection. St Michael's College in Enniskillen has become the latest school to say it plans to continue using testing to select pupils.

Feeder primary schools were told of the board of governors' plan in a letter.

The all-boys' school is just the second Catholic grammar to declare its hand - after Lumen Christi College in Derry - but it is now thought that others will follow suit.

Already 30 non-Catholic grammar schools have joined together to continue testing pupils after the end of the 11-plus.

Lumen Christi confirmed earlier this week that it was moving ahead with its plans for an aptitude test.

With just weeks until the final 11-plus papers, up to six more Cath-olic grammar schools are said to be planning similar assessments in direct confrontation with Ms Ruane.

The development is further fuelling fears that the north could be thrust into an 'ad hoc' transfer system similar to that experienced in the Republic in the 1980s.

Faced with increased demand for places, some schools in the south introduced entrance tests.

Schools in the north say that it is the absence of agreed plans that is causing them to continue with some form of transfer test.

Ms Ruane has proposed a new transfer test to replace the 11-plus after this autumn - but for three years only. After that she plans that selection by ability will be forbidden, although un-ionists have pledged to block the move.

Pupils would instead simply choose schools - those oversubscribed would differentiate using non-academic criteria including family links and proximity.

But if the executive and assembly cannot agree legislation for ar- rangements for pupils currently in Primary 6, then their transfer to post-primary schools in 2010 could be left unregulated.

The Department of Education and Ms Ruane had yet to respond to the St Michael's move yesterday.

A spokesman said the minister, pictured, had already highlighted the "administrative and legal risks involved in attempting to set independent tests".

"The minister has started the process of establishing a legislative framework for her proposals in time for their operation in September 2010, when the current P6 children transfer to post primary schools," he said.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation, the largest union in Catholic schools, last night criticised St Michael's.

"It is unbelievable that any school, let alone a Catholic grammar school, should be seeking to perpetuate a system that is outdated, outmoded and clearly unfit for purpose in the education world of the 21st century," senior official Brendan Harron.



© Copyright 2006 i3 Digital